Since I spend most of my online time in front of a netbook, saving screen real estate has become a lot more important to me. Gaining or losing 50px vertically has immediate implications on the usability of a number of websites that I frequent. In this regard, Firefox with its default configuration isn’t quite the product that I need it to be. At the same time, the default configuration makes sense to me, as I regularly use most of what it provides. So this isn’t just about cruft removal. I want the whole package for half the price.
In this post, I will describe how I got there:
The menu bar. I use it every day, but not so often that I need to see it all the time. So I just implemented what IE does. Starting with Firefox 3.6, every Windows user will be able to hide the menu bar in Firefox and show it temporarily with the Alt key.
The bookmarks toolbar is my only place for bookmarks. The bookmarks menu hasn’t grown on me, although I’m not sure why. I definitely don’t and won’t use the clunky bookmarks sidebar or the Library to access a particular bookmark. So the toolbar it is. But like the menu bar, I neither need nor want it to occupy space permanently. And as with the menu bar, the solution turned out to be simple. I took the bookmarks button that Firefox provides in the toolbar customization palette and made it show/hide the bookmark toolbar rather than the sidebar. You can get the extension for this here.
The status bar is trickier. I mostly need it for exposing link targets (since the progress bar is redundant). I tried to stop depending on that, but it didn’t work. I need the URLs to be displayed, even if I won’t read them out most of the time. Existing solutions for Firefox show the status bar temporarily or display link targets in the location bar, both of which didn’t feel ideal to me. It took me months to figure this out, but I think Chrome gets this right: It displays the URL in a small panel in a bottom corner of the browser window. This allows me to look there when I need it and ignore it otherwise. Just what I need. So I implemented something similar for Firefox. You can get the extension here.